A young Canberra woman has been abused and chased by a car full of men while riding her bicycle home from Civic, and there are suggestions it’s not the first time this group has harassed people in the area.
One of the best, and most commonly cited, benefits of living in Canberra is the that it is a safe city.
Like an oversized country town, we’re proudly and frequented described as a place where it’s safe to walk the streets at night.
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This is why it’s very concerning to see any indication that suggests that might be changing.
Inner north resident Kirsty Dale has written on Facebook about an incident she experienced earlier this month in a post that has since been widely shared across the community.
We spoke with Ms Dale, who was shaken by the experience but otherwise not seriously hurt.
After a night out in town earlier in March, she was riding her bike home towards Turner when she was approached by a (possibly late model) shiny back sedan.
Inside the car were four or five young men who, Ms Dale said, seemed to be intoxicated.
Ms Dale said the men yelled lewd and sexual comments out to her from the car, including highlighting the fact that she was alone.
She said she responded by “sticking her finger up” at the men as she continued riding, a reaction that she admits was, “in hindsight, probably not the best decision because I was alone and quite vulnerable.
“But I’m sick of being harassed,” she said.
The car stopped at a red light at the next intersection, and it was here that the situation took a turn from offensive to seriously dangerous.
“They pulled up at a red light at the intersection … I slowed down to avoid passing them again,” said Ms Dale.
“It became obvious I was going to have to pass them, and as I came up to the car the back door opened. This started to scare me so I started riding faster and took the corner so quickly my bike nearly came out from under me and my bike lock flew out of the basket.
“The man started running after me on foot, yelling something along the lines of ‘I’m going to get you’. Luckily this was my neighbourhood, so I rode as fast as I could home with the car speeding along beside me and the occupants yelling, ‘You should be scared’ and ‘We’re literally going to rape you’.
“I was terrified and thought about going into another random front yard but ended up deciding to risk getting home. I actually fell off my bike at my gate, and have a huge bruise on my knee. As I was struggling to get in my gate and door, the car overshot my address but they kept yelling at me.
“I almost left my bike outside of my gate in my panic, but realised this would give away which apartment I live in.
Ms Dale said she was so scared they were going to come back that she went inside, turned off all the lights and called the friends she’d been out with to come and sit with her for a bit.
She reported the incident to police. ACT Policing has confirmed they’ve received the report and are investigating.
Alarmingly, Ms Dale said two of her friends have had similar encounters whilst riding their bikes home in the same area at night time.
On both occasions, the men had a black shiny sedan come up behind them and apparently try to hit them with an object that was described as being like “a police baton”.
At least one of these incidents has also been reported to the police.
Ms Dale said it wasn’t the first time she’d been harassed in the area, either.
Previously, while walking home from Civic to her university accommodation, she was followed by a black Holden Commodore.
“I bolted through [the block] and hid in the bushes for 10 minutes before continuing to the other side of campus,” Ms Dale said.
“Another time I was leaving [a club in Civic] by myself when a group of four older men started following me and yelling things like, ‘Hey girl in the blue dress, come back’. Luckily that time I ran into a friend that time and I was so thankful.
“I know a lot of friends who have experienced harassment but not many to the extent that I experienced on Friday night that I know of, apart from those two friends I mentioned above,” she said.
In 2016, there were 10,210 incidents of crime in Canberra, including 97 incident of sexual assault.
North Canberra had the second highest number of sexual assaults (22), behind Belconnen with 32 incidents.
Add in all kinds of assault, and North Canberra has the highest rate, with 198 incidents over the course of the year.
What do you think? Are you worried Canberra is becoming less safe? Have you heard about any other recent street harassment incidents?